Conventional planning is typically involved with the management of urban areas including focus on zoning, historic preservation, safety, and public health. Despite attempts to promote and protect the public well being, principles of social justice often fail to enter the planning realm. For the complete promotion of public welfare, efforts must be made to bridge this gap ensuring the protection of human rights.

For redevelopment efforts to be truly successful, principles of sustainable development must comprise the foundation of planning initiatives. This includes all three pillars of sustainability encompassing the environmental, economic, and social realm. A sustainable approach involves the incorporation of a human rights framework into the planning agenda. While integrating concrete social justice goals into planning processes prove to be an elusive concept, various individuals, organizations, and municipalities have stepped up to the task.

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A noteworthy organization in this effort includes Cities for CEDAW, a grassroots campaign working to initiate the principles of CEDAW into municipal and city planning. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty focusing on the protection of women’s rights. Thus far, CEDAW has been ratified by 186 of 193 UN member states with the United States being of seven states failing to ratify the document.

Although the United States has not made an official commitment in support of CEDAW, citizen involvement throughout the country continues to strive towards its implementation. Cities for CEDAW aim to localize the global document by harnessing the powers of municipalities in the promotion CEDAW principles into city planning. These principles provide an underlying human rights framework intended to improve the status of women and girls. Through mobilizing multiple stakeholders such as elected officials, media, businesses, and NGOs, successful implementation has been achieved.

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In 1988, San Francisco became the first city to adopt CEDAW principles through the incorporation of gender analysis into city planning efforts. As well as appointing community and government leaders to oversee implementation plans, the municipality designated funding towards CEDAW implementation programs and policy reforms. As a result of such efforts concrete improvements were seen gender equality throughout the city. Measurable differences have been seen in public safety, employment, and budgetary allocations. Furthermore, domestic homicides were eliminated throughout the city for a total of 44 months.

Currently, the Cities for CEDAW campaign aims to include a total of 100 cities into CEDAW implementation efforts. The campaign encourages public participation from civil society and calls upon all individuals in reaching out to elected officials. Although such initiatives are currently far from mass popularity, an important precedent has been set into place affirming that social justice not only can be incorporated into development initiatives, but also, is essential for the healthy growth of cities and municipalities.

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